COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – One local clinic is putting a focus on the connection between health care and healthy meals with an all new partnership and program to better serve their community.  

Home grown to grown strong, the team at MercyMed of Columbus have partnered with The Food Mill to put an emphasis on making healthy meals available and affordable to everyone through their new medically-tailored meals program.

MercyMed Wellness Clinic Manager Casey Valencia says this starts by creating communication between the patients’ doctor and chef.

“When you eat better, you feel better, but if you have a lack of education, or access to what you need, then where do you start? Medically tailored meals will fill in the gap because now your chef has the knowledge of your doctor, and your doctor is informing your chef,” said Valencia

MercyMed Chief Development Officer Billy Holbrook shares how the whole process works.

“Let’s grow the food they need at the MercyMed farm, prescribe a meal plan for them if they’re diabetic or have high-blood pressure, and our buddies at The Food Mill will make it for them,” said Holbrook.

The food used within the program is grown directly across the street from the clinic. The convenience in location is intentional because as farmer Keith Sims shares, they both go hand in hand.

“That’s what I want people to ask; Is the question, why does a medical clinic have a farm? Why does a doctor work with a farmer? Because they are both inextricably linked. I say all the time, it’s just as important to know the name of your doctor as it is to know the name of your farmer,” said Sims.

Once harvested, the fruits of their labor are walked across the street to The Food Mill, where the meals are made fresh for each patient. Founder and Director of The Food Mill Olivia Amos shares not every resident in Columbus has access to fresh food and she hopes this program can build a bridge.

“Columbus has a really high rate of food insecurity and that ties back into a high rate of diet-related illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity. My passion is to connect those two things for Columbus residents, and be able to create better access for all our community to fresh fruit and vegetables. I feel like everyone deserves equal access to that,” said Amos.

While one healthy meal might be considered a small step to some, the team at MercyMed says this is all an effort to play a bigger role in they work they do.

“In the social determinants of health kind of pie chart, there’s a big piece for healthcare. That’s where we find out starting point with patients and we learn, there’s a lot of ways diet can improve what our patient’s health outcomes are,” said Holbrook.

According to Health.Gov, the, “social determinants of health have a major impact on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life,” and this is just one way in which MercyMed hopes to make life healthier for the patients they serve in the program.

If interested in helping MercyMed and The Food Mill’s efforts with the medically-tailored meal program, you can purchase food from The Food Mill, purchase produce from the MercyMed farm and Farm Stand Friday, or make a donation to either non-profit.

Farm Stand Friday is every Friday this summer from 9 a.m. to noon at MercyMed.